Judge: Fulton election workers’ defamation suit against Giuliani can advance

Former Trump lawyer’s false claims of voting fraud at heart of case

A federal judge has rejected Rudy Giuliani’s request to dismiss a lawsuit brought by two Fulton County election workers who say their lives were upended by false claims of voting fraud.

Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, filed the lawsuit last year, accusing Giuliani and others of defamation by spreading false allegations about them based on video from ballot counting at State Farm Arena on election night in 2020.

Giuliani, who was then-President Donald Trump’s attorney, called the video a “smoking gun” for voting fraud. The allegation was investigated and rejected by the FBI, the U.S. attorney’s office in Atlanta and the Georgia secretary of state’s office.

ExploreFive fraud claims: What investigators found

Giuliani sought to have the lawsuit dismissed. On Monday, Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia rejected Giuliani’s request.

In her ruling, Howell denounced the “increasingly outlandish paranoia from those claiming the election was being ‘stolen’ ” and said Giuliani “propagated and pushed that false narrative.”

Howell’s ruling is not the final word on the lawsuit, which ultimately may be decided by a jury. But it’s the latest rebuke for Giuliani and others who engaged in a coordinated campaign to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia and other swing states.

That campaign involved using false allegations of voting fraud in an attempt to persuade state legislators and, ultimately, then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject the official presidential electors in favor of electors who would vote for Trump. The campaign has sparked criminal investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, as well as a congressional investigation.

ExploreInside the campaign to undermine Georgia’s election

Freeman and Moss were an early focus of Trump’s false claims. At a legislative hearing in Atlanta, Giuliani played snippets of video from State Farm Arena that he said showed the election workers engaged in fraud. He continued to accuse them of fraud even after investigators determined they did nothing improper.

At a congressional hearing last summer, Freeman and Moss said they endured months of threats and harassment because of the false allegations, and the FBI warned Freeman to move out of her home. She blamed Trump, Giuliani and others who spread lies about them.

“There is nowhere I feel safe,” Freeman told congressional investigators. “Nowhere. Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?”

The election workers filed a lawsuit in December, accusing Giuliani and other defendants of defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy. One America News Network, one of the defendants, has already reached a settlement in the case and admitted during a broadcast that Freeman and Moss did not commit fraud.

That leaves Giuliani as the only defendant in the case. On Monday, Howell ruled the lawsuit can move forward.

The judge cited numerous false claims Giuliani made about the election workers in the weeks after the election. Among other things, Giuliani accused them of “ballot stuffing,” “cheating” and “stealing the votes.”

Howell determined that a reasonable jury may conclude that Giuliani, Trump and others created a plan to sow doubt in the outcome of the 2020 election by launching a misinformation campaign, which included accusing Freeman, Moss and others of participating in election fraud schemes.

The lawsuit isn’t the only legal jeopardy Giuliani faces. He’s a target of the Fulton County criminal investigation into Trump’s effort to overturn the election.

The grand jury also has issued subpoenas to others who allegedly campaigned to coerce Freeman into falsely admitting she committed election fraud.